By: Ed Hitchins
After penning an open letter to the provincial government, encouraging them to step in and get both the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council back to the bargaining table, student presidents of eight Ontario colleges, including IGNITE President Maja Jocson, will meet with Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
The letter, addressed to Premier Kathleen Wynne and 16 MPPs in Ontario’s Legislature, says that “every day of class missed affects our students and their ability to learn, and we are urging the Ontario government to step in and help our students return to the classroom.”
Humber IGNITE president Maja Jocson is very firm in the belief that the meeting will will re-affirm who is affected by the strike, which is now in its second week : over 500,000 students at 24 colleges.
“When we meet with the minister, we’re going to ask when is the right time to intervene,” said Jocson. “I hope that this will allow the government to understand what we’re feeling. They will be face-to-face with actual students to know.”
No talks have been scheduled for OPSEU and the College Employers Council after the union walked out of talks on October 15th.
Seneca Student Federation president Nicola Lau said that the letter and securing the meeting was a collaborative effort.
“There’s no specific person that has taken charge. We’re all equal right now. We’re all here for the students,” Lau said.
Lau expressed hope that the meeting with Minister Matthews will get the ball rolling with continued talks, despite the government insisting that they respect the negotiation process.
“We as student leaders, have to take initiative to lead. We’re actually here to advocate for them. We’re not here just sitting here,” she said.
That is a point that Jocson, who comes from a background in Kinesiology before being elected IGNITE president, would agree with.
“Once they know and get involved, that they will have students’ best interests in their minds,” she said. “Will it solve everything? No. But I hope it continues their communication. And it encourages them to go back and talk.”